To-scale paper prototyping for the home

I’m iteratively prototyping my new room layout at full scale with newspaper.

This is the second time I’ve tried this and it really works well. You stick sheets of newspaper together to represent the kitchen cabinets or the new sofa or whatever. Then you lay the sheets out in the room itself and see what it’s like. Of course, it helps a lot if the room is empty.

Paper prototyping a kitchen to scale with newspaper
Paper prototyping a kitchen to scale with newspaper

It’s a very similar process to designing good user experiences. Create a prototype. Simulate use. Discover what works. Iteratively improve.

The motivation is also the same. If I’m going to spend thousands or a new kitchen or a new sofa, I want to be sure I don’t end up with an expensive mistake. I want something efficient, comfortable and lovely to live with. Any organisation launching a website should be thinking something similar. “Measure twice, cut once,” as the saying goes.

Paper prototyping a lounge/dining space with newspaper
Paper prototyping a a lounge/dining space with newspaper

And what I have learned on both occasions?

  • Leave more empty space between the objects
  • Make sure there’s good flow from one space to the next

Which sounds a lot like interaction design too.

3 thoughts on “To-scale paper prototyping for the home

  • August 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Phil, thanks for sharing this – its these types of ideas that help me explain to people the importance of prototyping. I’ve found on a few occasions that when you explain things using an analogy that relates to a real world situation (such as planning the design of the rooms in your house), people tend to get the importance of prototyping more.

  • August 16, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Nice one Phil, I have done this before. even migrating to brown paper cut to shape. I thought i was just weird doing it, but you’ve made me feel a lot better about it.

  • September 12, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    While I haven’t done paper prototyping with cutouts, I’ve used post-its to categorize items in my closet and move them around on a piece of paper. I play with different ways to order things like from activity type, to fequently/rarely used items, to color.

    Oh, and this was for a clothing closet, but I’ve used this in other scenarios as well.

    @jason: If that’s weird, I’ve even annotated drawers and cabinet in my workspace. It’s a very geek attribute. ^^

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